When Madonna Jervis Wise set out to write about women trailblazers in Tampa Bay, she was looking for women who carved their own path — through Florida’s wild lands, and within such realms as law, politics, education, social justice, sports and community life.
Some of these women are widely known today, occupying — or having occupied — positions of prominence. Others played a pivotal role in shaping opportunities for future generations but were not necessarily heralded during their own lifetime, and are all but forgotten today.
Wise’s book, “Images of America: Trailblazing Women of Tampa Bay,” shares the stories of women who have helped to shape today’s way of life.
She conveys their contributions through photographs and through accounts she gleaned from artifacts, historic sources, newspaper clippings, public records, oral histories and interviews.
The 159-page book is a result of months of recent work, coupled with years of research Wise has done for her other local history books, as well as from knowledge she has acquired through deep involvement with area historic societies.
When Wise was compiling a list of women to include, she put out feelers to former colleagues and to community leaders.
She also consulted her daughters, Mamie and Rachel, and her daughter-in-law, Emily.
Mamie is an assistant U.S. Attorney and Rachel is a public defender. Emily is a director at Academy of the Holy Names.
They brainstormed with the author, with a focus on diversity and inclusion.
Many colleagues suggested names of women whom Wise said she had not known before, but once she did her research, she knew they must be included.
Others in the book are women that Wise met during her own professional life.
One of those women in retired Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper, who presided over Family Court cases in Pasco County. Wise said the judge is known for her work in creating a family centered, trauma-informed courtroom.
The other is Margarita Romo, an ordained minister who founded Farmworkers Self-Help, in Dade City and has spent decades working to improve life for migrant farmworkers. She was recognized for her contributions when she was inducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed to individuals who have made significant contributions to improving the lives of minorities and all citizens in Florida.
The book covers a lot of ground.
It begins with contributions of indigenous women and includes women who are still making a difference today.
The photographs came from myriad sources, including The Tampa Bay History Center, newspaper archives, fivay.org, Florida Memory (Florida State archives), The Burgert Brothers Collection at the John Germany Genealogical library, the East Hillsborough Historical Society, Brooksville Mainstreet, and others.
She even obtained photos from the Henfield Museum in London featuring some Tampa Bay suffragettes.
Local photographer Richard Riley provided some photos, and others were supplied from private collections.
When Wise couldn’t acquire a usable photo, she turned to a local retired art teacher, who sketched the photographs for her.
Throughout her research, Wise said there was one common thread — regardless of the women’s background or endeavors —the woman had to be willing to step out, to break the mold.
“Without a doubt, successful, professional, prominent women will talk about how difficult it was to speak up. How difficult it was to be one of a few, maybe the only one, in class,” Wise said.
“I think you’re always reminded of the incredible courage it takes,” the author added.
She hopes the book will show that from generation to generation, women have built on the work done by women who blazed a trail before them.
Want a copy?
“Images of America: Trailblazing Women of Tampa Bay,” is available for $23.99, at Amazon.com; the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce; Pioneer Florida Museum & Village; Tampa Bay History Center Museum store; Wesley Chapel Barnes & Noble; and Lanky Lassie Shortbread in Dade City.
Madonna Jervis Wise book talks
March 1 at 6 p.m., and March 18 at 6 p.m.
Both talks are at the Florida Pioneer Museum & Village, 15602 Museum Road, in Dade City. The March 1 talk is in the main museum building; the March 18 talk is in Mabel Jordan Barn.
Published February 23, 2022